With the halfway stage of the Championship season coming close, both Leeds United and Aston Villa are in the fight for promotion to the Premier League.
Under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United have been taken to another level. “Bielsaball” has torn some Championship teams apart, and for the first time in a while, United look like they are in with a serious shout of promotion to the Premier League.
Aston Villa – despite their shaky start – sit in eighth place, four points outside the Championship Play-Off places. The departure of Steve Bruce and appointment of Dean Smith has seen them shoot up the table, putting them in the fight for one of the top six places.
However, both sides have struggled with defensive options, and could make moves for reinforcements in January.
Playing three at the back, Leeds United have had to call upon midfielder Kalvin Phillips to drop into the back three. Youngster Aapo Halme came into the starting eleven against Bristol City, and winger Stuart Dallas played at full-back in the same game. Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling have been on the sidelines for long spells, and Liam Cooper has now recently been injured, leaving Pontus Jansson as the only fit, senior centre-back.
Aston Villa have found themselves in a similar situation, with James Chester and Axel Tuanzebe the only natural centre-backs available. Right-back James Bree has moved into the middle on occasions, and earlier in the season under Bruce, Mile Jedinak was deployed at the heart of the defence.
With both sides suffering from a lack of defensive reinforcements, they should look into making a move for Everton’s out of favour defender Mason Holgate. The Mirror reported that Everton manager Marco Silva is willing to let the defender leave in January with first team chances limited.
The 22-year-old has played for The Toffees on 48 occasions since joining from Barnsley, proving himself as a promising defender. However, the arrivals of Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina have pushed Holgate out of the first team picture.
Holgate has played at both centre-back and right-back for Everton and in the England youth set up, so would provide an option on the right side of defence as well.
With the England youngster set to be available, it would be a clever move for any Championship side, especially two promotion chasing teams that are in need of defensive reinforcement.